by Basil H. Al-Dossary

Unconventionals Turn to Solar Power for Remote Wells in Kingdom’s North
Giant solar panels were recently employed in the Kingdom’s North to power well sites in the remote Jalamid Field in the Al-Jouf area. The system is portable and provides independent power with minimal down time to better serve the company’s gas production efforts.

Turaif — Five years ago, Saudi Aramco committed itself to supply the required fuel gas to the new Saudi Electricity Company power plant and to the Ma’aden Phosphate beneficiation plant at Wa’ad Al Shamal Industrial City in the northern region of Saudi Arabia.

It was an ambitious commitment, given that the company would need to explore and master one of the newest and most difficult segments of the oil and gas business: unconventional gas. The work execution program to deliver these commitments was divided into Phase I and Phase II.

In May 2017, the mechanical completion for the Phase I unconventional gas facility in the Kingdom was completed. Designed to be cost-effective, fit-for-purpose, the 79 million standard cubic feet per day gas production facility is processing gas from 10 unconventional wells near the northern city of Turaif, and then the gas is shipped through pipelines to key customers, including the Saudi Electric Company’s 1 gigawatt power plant at Wa’ad Al Shamal and Ma’aden’s phosphate plant.

Thinking Outside the Box

Effort was then focused on delivering Phase II, which is composed of four facilities. The system’s design concept is to achieve the lowest capital cost system that is safe to build and operate, as the unconventional gas wells have a shorter life cycle. The first facility was mechanically completed on December 2018.

But to remain competitive, it is critical to constantly think outside the box. So when wells were found to have good promise but were further away than anticipated, the team opted to hook up the wells using an off-grid hybrid photovoltaic solar power system to power the remote gas wells in the Jalamid Field in the Al-Jouf area of Northern Border Regions in Saudi Arabia.

This was a remarkable achievement for Saudi Aramco because it is the first time in the history of the Kingdom that well sites have been powered by solar energy. This is a departure from regular practice of self-produced electricity that relies on transmission via overhead lines.

The photovoltaic solar and battery system equipment is specified and designed as modular — standardized to be relocatable to other new gas wells.

A Portable, Cost-effective Solution

Utilizing off-grid photovoltaic solar power and battery systems is a cost-effective solution to power remote unconventional gas wells with energy storage to supply power continuously for five consecutive days with no sunlight.

The photovoltaic solar power system has a charge controller system output of 48VDC and has a nominal distribution system voltage of 480Vac, 3-Phase, 60Hz.

The installed off-grid hybrid photovoltaic solar power system has a footprint of 42 meters by 114 meters, with 100kW PV modules, 1900kWH of VRLA battery, and a tilt angle that is adjustable between 35 and 45 degree PV arrays (oriented facing south). The system has a five-year life cycle for the battery and 20 years for other components, with a redundant power configuration utilizing multiple inverters. They have five days autonomy and a 150 kilo-volt ampere mobile backup generator.

Other Benefits

Some of the major benefits include, but are not limited to, reusability for the other well sites, ease of mobility to other remote locations, an improved schedule impact on projects, independent power generation that is not dependent on power line grid, less down time and maximum guarantee of gas production, complete elimination startup requirements in the case of fuel for power generation, and general cost savings associated with deployment and operations.

This project has demonstrated that solar power has a wider use in the development of Saudi Aramco projects in the Kingdom and reflects the company’s commitment to protect the environment and preserve the Kingdom’s natural resources.

As a technology leader in the industry, it is another opportunity to showcase Saudi Aramco’s depth of knowledge and commitment in this field.